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  • gerard van weyenbergh

Art Nouveau, a basic description

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Multiform and international, the Art Nouveau movement is that of curves and arabesques. Freely inspired by nature, also favoring the theme of women, it is a pure product of the Belle Époque (1890–1914). In France, it is above all Hector Guimard, who embodies it, through the metro entrances of which he is the architect, and the School of Nancy, around Émile Gallé. Ceramics, furniture, works of art, glassware. Art Nouveau offers a real aesthetic universe ideally accessible to all. One of his major contributions is to have broken down the traditional barrier between major and minor arts, for example, by raising the poster to the ranks of the fine arts. In Germany, Art Nouveau takes the name of Jugendstil, while in England, it is embodied in the Arts & Crafts movement. Sometimes called Modern Style, it marks a real revival of European decorative art in the era of increasing industrialization.

"Symmetry is by no means a condition of art, as many people pretend to believe; it is a habit of the eyes, nothing else. »Hector Guimard

art expert,
descritption of what Art nouveau is

Its history, its key ideas

Art Nouveau has its roots in the Arts & Crafts movement, which appeared in England in the 1860s. It resembles a desire to return to craftsmanship, a revalorization of workers' work, the creation of beautiful, useful objects. William Morris was one of the great promoters. It is a question of relaunching the art of cabinetmaking, pottery, enameling, by reconnecting with a return to nature and simplicity. It's the emergence of design that expresses itself through this movement.

In France, Art Nouveau emerged in the early 1890s and was quickly described as a "noodle style" due to the privilege given to arabesques on straight lines. It mainly affects architecture and interior decoration objects, such as furniture and glassware. The architect Hector Guimard is one of its most famous representatives. The promotion of Art Nouveau was ensured by the merchant Samuel Bing who opened a store in Paris in 1895. Representatives of style (Louis Majorelle, Émile Gallé, René Lalique, Eugène Grasset) stood out particularly during the exhibition universal of 1900.

The city of Nancy was a veritable laboratory of Art Nouveau. In the context of the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany in 1871, Nancy became the capital of eastern France and a stronghold for the defense of regional architecture, linked to its cultural roots. There, a school is created, chaired by glassmaker Émile Gallé. Exuberant patterns and colors characterize his works, mainly inspired by flora, the marine world, and Japanism. The goal is to create shapes that are both simple and harmonious.

In Germany, as in France, the emergence of this new decorative style wishes to bring up to date the virtues of craftsmanship, faced with the rise of industrial production. Again, this is a fin de siècle aesthetic, marked by the desire to create total art. In Austria, the richness of this symbolist inspiration is expressed through the personality of Gustav Klimt and the organization of Sessions, international exhibitions. Numerous buildings all over Europe bear witness to the influence of this aesthetic, such as the constructions of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, ​​the Secession building in Vienna, individual mansions in Brussels, and the Paris metro stations.

The Great War signals the end of free and voluble inspirations of Art Nouveau. It will give way to the Art Deco style, which, in the 1920s, promoted a return to classicism. read

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